Meaning ‘fired earth’, a type of clay cooked by the sun or fired in a kiln with a wonderful soft, earthy, reddish-brown colour.
Being made of earth, terracotta floor tiles match the ambient temperature and are always warm underfoot. They are softer and kinder than stone, meaning that accidentally dropped objects don’t drop as readily.
Their distinctive colour, which varies from yellow ochre to soft pink to dark red-brown according to regional raw materials, is immediately friendly and welcoming. Natural terracotta is unglazed, and impregnated with linseed oil to keep the surface clean. Terracotta is essentially a rustic product, so high sheen applications and over -polishing just don’t look right.
As with all natural surfaces, the material will eventually ‘walk up’: the natural colouring will be preserved but splashes and marks become absorbed into the material. Natural materials require a little patience, but if you are short of time and seek this effect, you can also buy ‘ready made’ old and aged terracotta tiles from a good antique/reclamation yard.
Terra cotta is also the name of a colour, a soft, orangey-red–quite unlike the nasty, hard colour so often found under the name. Look at the soil around you to decide whether terracotta is right for you, and in which tone.